Consecration of the Church of England Burial Ground (Brisbane, 1862)

The following article about the consecration of the old North Brisbane Burial Ground - at what is now Lang Park - appeared in the The Courier, Brisbane, on Saturday 24 May 1862. Such rituals were one-offs and only possible in religiously 'segregated' cemeteries, where specific portions of land were set aside for the use of different denominations. In non-segregated 'mixed' cemeteries, such as the ones at South Brisbane and Balmoral, consecration was considered to happen at individual grave sites as a result of a religious burial service being performed there.

Looking across the former Paddington Cemetery, ca. 1870. (Qld State Archives)

These rituals were not often covered in the newspapers of the time in this level of detail:

"THE consecration of the ground set apart and granted for burial purposes to the Church of England took place on Thursday, as announced, at eleven o'clock. This land, which is very prettily situated in a valley behind the Green Hills, has been for a long while since dedicated to purposes of burial, but had not been consecrated. The piece of ground is now almost fenced-in, and a small chapel has been erected on it.

At eleven' o'clock the Bishop commenced the service, assisted by the Chancellor of the Diocese, J. Bramston, Esq., B.C.L., of All Souls' College, Oxford, and by the Rev. T. Bliss, Rev. J. Moseley, Rev. J. Tomlinson, Rev. J. R. Moffatt, Rev. Mr. Bailey, Rev. B. E. Shaw, Rev. E.G. Moberley, and the Rev. V. F. Ransome. There were comparatively few persons present at the commencement of the ceremony, but the number subsequently increased, so that the little chapel could scarcely afford sufficient accommodation for those present.
The boundaries of the ground having been traversed by the Right Rev. Prelate, his reverend assistants, and the other persons present, joining in the appointed service, the chapel was entered, and the Chancellor, Mr. Bramston, read the document under the hand and seal of the Bishop defining the ground, and setting forth the purposes for which it had been consecrated, and to which alone, for all time to come, it was to be applied. Prayers were then offered up, and a portion of the Communion Service performed, after which the Bishop, Dr. Tufnell, delivered a brief appropriate, and earnest sermon, taking as his text John xi., 25th verse - "I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live." The right rev. gentleman dwelt upon the beauty and appropriateness of the opening passages of the service for the burial of the dead, appointed by the Church of England, the verse, "I know that my Redeemer liveth, &c," which seemed, as we heard it at the church door when following the corpse, to embody the expression of hope on the part of the dead body, whilst the following verse - "We brought nothing into this world, &c," contained, as it were, a consolation for the living and an expression of implicit resignation to the Divine will.

The reverend speaker then drew attention to the fact that, whilst heathen nations had different ways of disposing of their dead, the Christian nations invariably respected the remains of their people and buried them. The first instance we found in the Bible of the care observed with regard to burying places, was that of Abraham, who purchased a burying-place from Ephron, and who would not accept one of the sepulchres of the children of Heth for his dead. The right rev. gentleman then enlarged at length upon the points that, both on account of the dead, and' also for the instruction of the living, it was the duty of Christian communities to have burial places consecrated and set apart. He pointed out as one reason why the remains of the dead should be respected, and preserved from indignity, that the members of the Church expressed in the creed their belief in "the resurrection of the body," not the resurrection of the soul, for the soul, although withdrawn, was eternal, and could not die; but the resurrection of the body as it was on earth. This resurrection was, perhaps, he said, a more wonderful instance of the Divine power than even the original creation of the body. The rev. gentleman then pointed out how the setting apart of burial places, consecrated and respected, was of instruction and benefit to the living, as it served to remind them of the transitory nature of their own existence. It was also a pleasant feeling to know that we could visit the last resting-place of those we loved, and that their remains would not be rudely disturbed or suffer indignity. The right rev. prelate concluded his Sermon by alluding to the chapel in which they were assembled, which he hoped would be of some service. Humble as the building was, if it were the means of saving but one soul, it would not have been erected in vain.

At the conclusion of the sermon, a collection was made, after which the Communion was administered to such as remained to partake."

The Brisbane Cycle Co. Advertisement, 1892

The Brisbane Cycle Co., Adelaide Street. Queensland Post Office Directory (Weatherill's), 1892.

Brisbane Milling Co. Advertisement, 1892

From 'Queensland Post Office Directory (Weatherill's), 1892.

Kennedy Brothers Advertisement, 1892

Queensland Post Office Directory (Weatherill's), 1892

KM Smith Undertakers, Fortitude Valley, Advertisement, 1892.

Ad for KM Smith undertakers, Fortitude Valley. Queensland Post Office Directory, 1892.

Scenes by the 1840s Brisbane River

The following vivid description of life by the Brisbane River in the 1840s was written by William Clark in 1917. Clark arrived at Moreton Bay in 1849 with his parents when he was 12 years old.

In his early years he assisted his father in felling pine timber and splitting shingles in the dense scrubland of the Boggo district, from the present Fairfield to Oxley Creek. From the 1860s he was occupied in various industries around Queensland, including sheep, cattle and mining. In his later years he wrote regular articles for the Brisbane Courier and the Queenslander reminiscing about his early life and adventures:


‘Further upstream from the creek, after which Creek-street is named, near the bamboos in the Botanic Gardens, stood a cottage, painted green, with a fine orchard attached. This was the residence of an old-time military officer. Opposite on the south bank stood primitive Kangaroo Point, with a few scattered houses. At the end of the Point was John Rankin's pineapple garden, with John - or, as he was called, Tinker - Campbell's boiling down works, the first in Moreton Bay. In 1848 the Point was the scene of a tragic murder, for which a cook at Sutton's Hotel named Fife was executed. The affair was the outcome of a drunken melee, in which the boiling down butchers were said to have been implicated, as the testimony of a friend of the writer's, who was actually an eye witness of the disposal of part of the body fully corroborates. The upset price of the Kangaroo Point land at the local sale in 1843 was £1 per acre. Just above the present Dry Dock, on the bank of the river, was John Slack's paddock. John Slack afterwards formed a cattle station on Slack's Creek, Logan River. Walmsley Point, on the opposite bank, in the old Domain, was named after John Walmsley, who had a sawpit there.

Early panoramic view of Brisbane, 1862 (John Oxley Library)

Following the river bank upwards, the Commissary buildings (now Colonial Stores) was reached, built in 1829, as the date stone of the building indicates, although Mr. Neimiah Bartley, in his book ‘Agates and Opals,’ gives the date as 1822, in a chapter headed ‘Brisbane in 1822,’ when, in fact, Brisbane was ‘non-et-iventus.’ The old place, with the rubble stone wall nearby, is one of the few remaining relics of penal times. Visitors to the old building may now see in the floors the old-fashioned wrought iron nails of the period. On the opposite bank was primitive South Brisbane. Tom Archer tells us that when he arrived there in 1841 with his wool teams from Durundur, by way of Kilcoy and Cressbrook stations, via Ipswich, not a single house or habitation then existed in the place. The Stanley-street frontage 70 years ago was occupied by Messrs. Orr Bros., butchers - James and William. It is now Baynes Bros., also butchers. Daniel Peterson's wharf and store was next. In the store big Dick Allcock, his father, and George, his brother, printed and published the first issue of the Moreton Bay ‘Free Press,’ that afterwards merged into the ‘Guardian’ newspaper. Adjoining was John M'Cabe's Freemasons' Hotel and wharf, afterwards Christie's. Peter Gablen's residence and wharf followed. Then came the old Hunter River Steam Co.'s premises, with two large receiving stores. One of the old gate posts is still standing in Stanley-street. The managers of the company in succession were William Connoley, George Salt Tucker, and Henry Buckley, our first Auditor-General.

Adjoining the old Russell-street ferry was Sandy MacIntyre's property, on which the company's steamers made fast their head lines to a tree. The company wished to purchase the property, and made an offer, which was not accepted. One morning the head lines were cut. The steamer's head lay down stream. The company then said good-bye to South Brisbane. So we lost the steamers. The earliest of those steamers was known as The William, the fourth colonial built boat. Afterwards came the Eagle, Captain Allen, Sovereign, Captain Cape, and the Tamar, Captain Murphy. The ferry approaches of old Russell-Street were by a cutting through a high grassy bank. For some distance above the ferry, the riverbank was occupied by sawpits. Adjoining the sawpits were two cottage residences, one the early home of the M'Naught family, the other the residence of Mr William Wilkes, editor of the ‘Moreton Bay Courier.’ The land on which they stood now forms the approaches to Victoria Bridge.

Moreton Bay Settlement from South Brisbane,
c.1835, attributed to H Boucher Bowerman (JOL)

At North Quay, on the present ice works, stood M'Cormack the builder's cottage. In a right angle line near the present alignment of George-street was ‘God's acre’ - the convict burial ground; where many of the victims of the relentlessly cruel penal administration slept their last sleep. The spot was not reserved in early surveys. The graves had fallen in below the surface when the writer last visited it. There were no head marks to the graves. Recently, when a building foundation was put in, some human remains were dug up, when I informed the Lands Department of the exact locale of the old cemetery. On the river bank above M'Cormack's was the military burial ground, where an officer was buried in a bricked-in vault, with a solid stone block, oblong in shape on top of the ground, with an inscription. A few steps led down to the entrance door, painted blue. On the south bank the next point of interest was the site of the present municipal baths, known as the Sandy Beach, where boats were beached for repairs. It was a favourite place with the blacks for swimming the river.

Round the point was the residence of Corporal M'Cann, an officer of penal times. Adjoining was the market garden of James Kirkwood, who wheeled his vegetables round South Brisbane in a barrow. Then came, at present site of South Brisbane Cricket Ground, Pendergrast's farm. The place was fenced in, a slab hut and small milking yard erected, and in 1848 abandoned by the owner, who never returned. Both banks of the river were without habitation until Oven's Head was reached, where a convict gang, who was cutting long saplings murdered their ganger, throwing his head into Clark's Creek, close by, and his body into the river. The spot is now enclosed in the South Brisbane Cemetery. The surrounding scrubs were full of pine trees. There the writer, when a lad of thirteen years, began work with his father splitting laths and shingles for old Andrew Petrie.

At Fairfield was the farm of Samuel Scarlet Bailey. The place had previously been fixed on for a sugar plantation by the Brisbane Sugar Company, a proposition that never eventuated, owing to the dictum of a St. Domingo planter, who considered the degree of frost against the growth of sugar in Moreton Bay. This was the first move in sugar growing. Further up towards Canoe or Oxley Creek, was the Government freestone quarry, with a ‘floor’ put in at the river level, whence stone was punted to the settlement. The north bank was still without settlement until Moggil Creek was reached, where the bulk of the Lima's immigrants settled to farm in 1849; and where John - or, as he was commonly called, ‘Butte’ - Williams opened, about 1846, the Moggil coal pits. On the head of the creek was an ancient sheep station, owned by Jack and Darby M'Grath. No more settlement on that bank for a long distance past the confluence of the Bremer.

On the south bank, at Wolston, now Goodna, was the home of Dr. Stephen Simpson, a Crown Lands Commissioner. It was here that the escapee Bracefield, brought in by Petrie in 1842, met his death while felling scrub. Redbank was the site of the Government dairy, where a large stockyard stood on the edge of Redbank Swamp. The river then was without settlement until John Uhr's Wivenhoe station was reached, the Cressbrook frontage, Colinton station following. Then the river bed became a precipitous mountain stream, boulder strewn to its source in the Bunya Mountains at Simon Scott's Toromeo station. With the establishment of steam traffic by the Hunter River Steam Co., the necessity for utilising the waterway of the river for conveyance of wool and stores between Brisbane and Ipswich became urgent. The steamers to Sydney plied monthly. Wool teams often got to town a day or so after the steamer had left. They then camped until she returned. The camping place was at the old Wheat Sheaf Inn, which stood at the edge of a large swamp near the site of Brigg's drapery store, in Melbourne street, South Brisbane. Messrs. James Reid and Thomas Boyland met the difficulty by contracting to build the necessary receiving stores for the steam company. They then built a large punt, and took delivery of wool from Darling Downs and the Upper Brisbane at Ipswich from the teams. The huge Noah's ark was moved down slowly on the tide way by long sweeps to South Brisbane.

Steamers soon began to ply on the up-river waters. The first, the Experiment, was brought from Sydney by James Canning Pearce. She soon came to grief by being short tied at a Brisbane wharf. In the night the tide rose over her. The steward, who was sleeping on board, awoke to find the water pouring down below, and rushed on deck. It was supposed his money was below; he made a fatal rush down the ladder, and was engulfed in the flood waters pouring down the stairway. Messrs. Reid and Boyland bought the old wreck, took her boilers and engines out, and put them into a steamer they built on a slip on Montague-road frontage named the Hawk. I remember when she was towed by a boat to South Brisbane. The men on her called to people on the river bank ‘The Hawk is coming; look out for your chickens.’ Meanwhile Mr. Thomas Coutts had arrived with the steamer Raven from Sydney. She was too large for the trade. The scrub trees overhung the narrow river. The old skipper would come on deck from below and shout to the man at the wheel, ‘Helm a lee! Keep her head out of the bush.’

Steamers on the Brisbane River, 1855 (Conrad Martens)

Sometime afterward a still larger steamer was placed on the river, named the Bredalbane, by Messrs. Robert Towns and Co., in connection with their South Brisbane business. Although a Sydney merchant, be was truly a pioneer of Queensland, being the first chairman of the Hunter River Steam Co. He subsequently embarked in cotton growing at Towns Vale, on the Logan. He was practically the founder of Townsville. He financed the development of the Redbank Collieries, and in conjunction with Mr. John Graham M'Donald, he explored and pioneered Burketown and the Gulf country. Meanwhile Mr. James Reid, the veteran river man, was a squatter at Camboon, on the Lower Dawson, with Towns and Co. as his station agents. Mr. Reid, when visiting Sydney, promised Mr. Towns that he would take the wheel of the Bredalbane on her trial trip. The steamer grounded for the night at the Seventeen-Mile Rocks. From the dense scrubs on the bank the mosquitoes came down on their prey. The party retreated below, when for the first and last time in his life, so it was said, Bobbie Towns sung a song, his subject being ‘That dark girl dressed in blue.’ A journalist on board sought the deck for fresh air, and sat down on a dry cask. The head fell in, and when discovered ‘Theo’ was quite comfortable, his legs hanging over the edge of the cask. The Bredalbane was subsequently returned to Sydney, being too large for the trade. Eventually the Swallow and other steamers were built, drawing less water.

The advent of the railway from Brisbane to Ipswich caused a considerable decrease in river traffic. The pioneers of the Brisbane River and its traffic, or settlement on the banks, were men of firm and steady step, men of indomitable energy, worthy to rank with Fenimore Cooper's ‘Pathfinders,’ whose memory their few remaining compeers still hold in kindly remembrance.’

Tyzack, Sons and Turner Advertisement, 1900

From the 'British ads' section, Queensland Directory (Wise), 1900

Tyzack, Sons and Turner Ad, 1900

F Savage Surgical Instruments, Advertisement, 1892

Queensland Post Office Directory (Weatherills) 1892.

F Savage Surgical Instruments, Advertisement, 1892

A Trip to the Gold Diggings #10: Warwick to Drayton

Warwick to Dayton

‘Beautiful country,’ ‘lovely scenery,’ such were the continual exclamations I found myself uttering while passing from Warwick to Drayton, a distance of fifty miles. Of my companions this day I shall be silent, partly because a residence in the colony has taught me that a man does not get all the credit for honesty of conduct that he deserves, and further, because I have no wish to trouble your readers about myself. I left a friend, who was travelling to Balbi’s, near to a sheep-yard, and pursued my way alone. I had heard of Glengallan, which is a beautifully situated homestead, standing on a small hill side, from which point the traveller may see over many miles of open country. I had no reason even there to bestow a paragraph in favor of generous offers, although to some person, evidently some one in authority, I gave a gentle hint that a pot of tea would be acceptable. Glengallan, to any one possessing a love of nature, and more so if that love had been kept from satisfaction by close office confinement, has all the charms of which future Australian poets will write. One might well imagine, while passing the place, that they were in the good old country, and that fortune had cast them where graziers resided.

Glengallan Graveyard

Rounding the fence the traveller, on his way to Drayton, passes a fenced burial ground, in which there are mementoes of the departed. A grand place to slumber the last sleep in, if the mind living has sympathy with the poet who expresses his wish for burial in a solitary spot where nature has sway and there is no want of space - where the grave-digger plunges not his pick into a skull in excavating to make room for other dead humanity, which scene is more forcibly represented than any living writers can pretend to in the grave-digger’s conversation with Hamlet, when that churchyard functionary was preparing for Ophelia’s burial. There is something solitary about a bush graveyard, which I leave to some Australian Harvey to treat upon; be mine the living, moving, present.

I cannot describe more forcibly the journey than by saying, now the way was through glades and scenery equal to parks - then would appear a plain of three or four miles in extent; again lightly timbered glades, then plains again. Clifton was seen in the distance, and towards evening Eton Vale was gained, from which place, in the shades of the evening, I finished the journey of more than fifty miles from Warwick to Drayton.

It is not my intention to say anything of Drayton, as it has a local paper and local writers to advance the claims which are not easily perceptible to the mere passers.

Meehan's Hotel in Darling Street, Drayton, ca. 1856. (Qld State Library)

With Toowoomba, four or five miles distant, I was well pleased. There seemed both spirit and enterprise, and the hotels were well kept and respectable in appearance. The mill I have previously mentioned I caught sight of, as I did also of the site for the proposed lock-up. Toowoomba is, verily, a fruitful spot, and the people generally seemed contented, happy, and prosperous. As I know there are men better able to furnish particulars of the two last mentioned places than my short stay will allow, I make my way through the toll-bar, over the Range, and find, by the teams on the road, that I am on the main line of road in the colony.

Passing Dr. Dorsey’s station I am soon at the creek near to Gatton. Just before reaching this place I passed an encampment of blacks who were preparing for a fight on the morrow. The battle was to have taken place on the day that I passed, but the blacks from the other side of the Range were waiting for some reinforcements. One of the divisions which the upper country blacks were waiting for I had passed, laden with spears for the encounter.


Gatton is a delightful spot, situated on an eminence, and commanding an extensive view on all sides. At present the buildings consist of an hotel and police station. At the first named a traveller may spend a comfortable night. I cannot answer for the second. Gatton is about forty miles from Ipswich and thirty from Drayton. A township has been laid out and the sale of allotments will shortly take place. The site is well chosen, and Gatton will, in a few years, be a respectable and thriving place.

I linger not; I want to be done with the trip, lest I weary you, so I leave Gatton, see Laidley Creek, over which a good bridge has been erected, and find that a township, to be called Laidley, has also been laid out and that the allotments will shortly be in the market.

Over Liverpool Range a good road has been made; and it will shortly be made better; enough has already been effected to remind the traveller that he is on a main road. A short distance brings the traveller to Bigge’s Camp, where he will probably find time to haul up for dinner. Four miles further on is the township of Alfred, with a public house known by the same name. If the village is as noble as was Alfred the King it will become famous in Queensland. A few miles on and the traveller comes to another public house called ‘The Rising Sun,’ where a good glass of ale may be obtained, and while drinking it the traveller may hear of another township called ‘Rosewood.’ Now on again and the line of road bears evidence that something good is intended for travellers.

And now I hear that I am nearing Ipswich. I pass the ‘North Australian’ public house, and soon hear the merry voices of the bullock-drivers camped outside Little Ipswich. Safely in I lay down my vocation of ‘your special correspondent’ and make ready for the journey to Brisbane.

If in my ramble I have been tedious, or given offence by word or deed, I pray of all to be ‘to my faults a little kind;’ and beg that, in judging, all may 'Nothing extenuate, nor set down aught in malice', and so, farewell.

The route described by the author of the ‘A Trip to the Diggings’ reports,
Moreton Bay Courier, 1859. (C. Dawson)

The complete 'Trip to the Gold Diggings' series: 
  1. A Trip to the Gold Diggings #1: Gold Fever at Brisbane
  2. A Trip to the Gold Diggings #2: The Fields From Timbarra to Tooloom
  3. A Trip to the Gold Diggings #3: Ipswich to Fassifern
  4. A Trip to the Gold Diggings #4: Fassifern to Koorelah Range
  5. A Trip to the Gold Diggings #5: Tooloom 
  6. A Trip to the Gold Diggings #6: Scenes From Tooloom
  7. A Trip to the Gold Diggings #7: Tooloom to Flagstone Creek
  8. A Trip to the Gold Diggings #8: Flagstone Creek to the Condamine
  9. A Trip to the Gold Diggings #9: Warwick
  10. A Trip to the Gold Diggings #10: Warwick to Drayton 

A Trip to the Gold Diggings #9: Warwick

A Trip to the Gold Diggings #8: Flagstone Creek to the CondamineIn 1859 a wave of gold fever hit the newly independent colony of Queensland, and hundreds of men headed southwest to Tooloom, approximately 150 kilometres over the border into New South Wales. This journey of around four or five days on horseback was also taken by J. Robinson, a correspondent of the 'Moreton Bay Courier' in November 1859, and he wrote a detailed account of his travels both there and back (see map below). The result is a fascinating insight into life on the road during the earliest days of colonial Queensland, as well as the rough-and-ready atmosphere of the goldfields. The writings are reproduced in this 'A Trip to the Gold Diggings' series.

Warning: This article contains language that would be considered racially offensive today, but is retained here for historical context.

Moreton Bay Courier, 20 December 1859


Warwick stands in an open plot of country, five miles having been given by some grazier as a spot for a township. In considering the present state of Warwick, it must not be forgotten that the township owes its rise to this generous act of the settler; though whether there was a motive hidden under the apparent generosity, which might savour of worldly wise prudence, deponent says not. Certain it is that the population of Warwick having increased to about eight hundred souls, and there being a trifle of the go-head Yankee notions in some of their compositions, the cry is already heard ‘enlarge our borders.’ Warwick is well off for places of worship, badly in want of a mill and a bank, and it is very probable that any speculators who may endeavour to carry into operation the benefits connected with money changing and corn grinding would not only confer benefits upon the population, but reap handsome returns in shape of profits.

In the neighbourhood of Warwick there are a great many small farms, and from all I could glean, the pursuit of agriculture was profitable - only wanting a bank, a mill, and good roads for transit to make it extremely so. The main street in Warwick is not at all to be despised; it is assuming a regular and orderly appearance. The style of houses is improving; in some places bricks are usurping the authority of slabs, and some of the storekeepers go to the trouble of ‘dressing’ their windows so that they may catch the gaze of the passers. I calculate woman is woman all the world over - they love a draper’s shop, and when they get inside the difficulty is to get them out without feeling that there is a deficiency in the exchequer, said absence of cash being compensated for by articles tasteful in pattern, indescribable in appearance, brought up in the rear by some bargain of a print ‘warranted to wash,’ ‘a duck of a bonnet,’ or ‘a pet of a shawl.’

There is every inducement in the situation and advantages possessed by Warwick to charm people from other less favoured places. Of the society of the place I cannot say much, as it was not my good fortune to mingle much in it. Like all other small places in the world, it has its rivalries and jealousies, and the little disputes are magnified into greater importance than they deserve. I must not pass by all the information I gleaned and sights I looked upon, so if you will accompany me, we will go together to the Courthouse.

Moreton Bay Courier, 22 December 1859

Warwick Court-House

And a veritable looking old barn it is on the outside, more like a cowshed than the ball of justice where the lords of the interior sit to hear and determine cases which perplex the minds of their neighbors and the people who live under the pleasure of their eyes, or manage to eke out a subsistence in spite of their favors.

‘Great works in Warwick’ there were truly in connection with the proceedings on that remarkable ‘koort’ day when the unfortunate shearer was committed to take his trial for the wilful murder of the Spaniard Deer, and also when disputes ran high as to the ownership of certain cattle, the brands of which had become higglety pigglety so as to confound meum and tuum, and leave questionable the ownership of a cow. May I try my hand at sketching ‘a koort day’ at Warwick.

Like fire amongst dried stubble had spread the report that on the day in question there was to be a veritable sitting, and that all plaintiffs and defendants were to have something decided for them which is highly called, I believe, Justice. There were to be no quirkings or shufflings, or longer law’s delay. And I found that when the people became assured that the magistrates would deign to attend, they assembled in large numbers, and preparatory to hearing and beholding how the Solons would conduct themselves, while canvassing the various points of the cases, and retailing the bit of scandal for which Warwick is so famous, that they did give their tongues ‘absolution’ for the words spoken, by every now and then partaking of nobblers. There was settler Johnson ‘comed to sware’ about his cow; and Mary come to swear about ‘her dog.’ There was the usual amount of fun; and here and there some disputed warmly on what the beaks could do and what they could not do; some vowing and protesting that in Warwick ‘them ere supers and squatters was jist about every body, and it warn’t not a bit of use for a poor man to say anything at all.’

Inside the Court-House

The first ornament, useful in itself, which attracted my attention was the pendant wooden chandelier; which evidently was the work of an artist of no mean qualification. I vow and declare that I should fancy, some Yankee had whittled out the affair with a knife. It hung pendant from a beam, suspended by a bit of string, and the three jets which extended themselves to hold the tallow dips, when the people of Warwick require justice by candle-light, were very primitive in their design. The artist who planned the chandelier and executed it with so much taste deserves immortalizing. If that identical candelabra should turn up in Anno Domini 2500, when Warwick shall have become a great city, been at the zenith of its glory and is running down to nadir through the luxuriance and waste of its inhabitants, posterity will speak of the crude notions of their ancestors, and we may fancy the historian of Warwick penning the following paragraph;

‘About this date, (let the reader supply it), some workmen, employed in excavation, discovered the remains of several articles, which were submitted to the antiquarians of the Royal Society of Warwick, who were so much impressed with the new light cast upon the articles in use amongst their ancestors, that Professor Buzfuz read a paper on the subject at the last meeting of the Society, and contributed a talented article to the ‘Downs Eclectic’ on the style of buildings of the nineteenth century. The Professor dwelt particularly on the style of candelabra or chandelier (the terms by which the centre supports of lights in public buildings were known in that distant period) and Professor Lightning contributed a sketch which he had taken by electricity, illustrating the interior of the supposed building, and his genius supplied a supposed likeness of those who maintained the dignity of the law in the building, and used the articles which have now become of so much interest to the world of science, demonstrating the progress we have made as a people.’

Taking it Easy

If the building and the arrangements of the interior have found me materials for the construction of the paragraph above, how much more was I delighted with the free and easy manner which pervaded the manners of all those holding authority, from the magistrates on the bench to the constables, the lowest crudes of whom made themselves remarkably noisy, when a witness was wanted, by shouting out the name six or seven times so loudly that those who were near had to mind the noise did not affect the tympanum of the ear. I liked the manner of all engaged very much. The magistrates spoke in so low a tone that what they said had to be conveyed to the people, on the same principle that water is passed to a fire by the long row of bucket lifters. The clerk took it easy-he read the depositions of the witnesses while sitting in a comfortable posture. Outside the pine fencing, which divided the sanctuary from the receptacle of the non-official, there was silence and good behaviour. Oh! it was a great day! The people listened to catch the faintest sound, and seemed to look upon the exalted with feelings of a pepper and salt mixture. Smarting, many of them, under the remembrance of how the magistracy was chosen from a class, and seeing that they (the people) were, for the most part, treated as canaille, it was not difficult for an unprejudiced observer to arrive at a conclusion that the sooner the law was administered by a paid official, whose bread depended upon his honesty, the earlier would those feelings of discontent be allayed which are expressed by nine-tenths of the residents on the Downs.

Hay stacking, Green Hills Farm near Warwick, 1894. (Qld State Archives)


If the historian dwells upon the building in which what is called justice is administered, he will surely devote a chapter to the state of the currency Anno Domini, 1859. Those who have read Macaulay will remember how masterly he deals with the currency difficulty which occurred in the reigns of William and Anne, which is said to have bothered the wisest men of their age, and made even the money changers consider to what state the nation was coming. Two hundred years after an era has passed it is simple to say what would have relieved the monetary difficulty; a man is considered wise sometimes who makes his own arguments, so that he may at pleasure blow them away like the down from a thistle. The system of calabashes, or I.O.U.’s, should be sent to Lord Macaulay, so that when he writes a chapter on the present Anglo-Saxon race, before the New Zealander stands on the ruins of London Bridge, he may not forget to state how, in a distant part of Queen Victoria’s dominions, every man issues his own bank notes, and oftentimes carries on his own trading transactions without being ‘worth a rap.’

All over the Downs the system of calabashes prevails. I talked with men able to form an opinion on what would remedy what is found to be a nuisance and a loss, and all agreed that a bank would cure the evil. I might cite cases of hardship told to me of servants paid with these calabashes, and of persons in the district who made it a practice to draw upon one another until the state of the calabash market was ‘confusion worse confounded.’ The excuse for the existing independent personal drawings is, as I have previously stated, the want of a bank. Calling attention to the want of the district of Warwick may induce some firm to commence the much needed establishment. If through this notice the want should be supplied and success attend the speculation, I hope I may be able to ‘get a bill done’ when I need it, in gratitude for the suggestion.

A Mill Wanted

When the earth, sun, and showers, have labored in a trio for the benefit of man, and the golden grain is sheaved and garnered, there is no mill in the district to turn the produce into flour. From the want of a mill the people suffer - having to send their corn away to be ground. The consequences of the absence of so needful a provision are, much of the ground that would be devoted to wheat-growing is given up to maize or potatoes, and in many instances left in a state of nature, as the cost of transit for grinding purposes is more than the farmer can afford. I did hear of a movement for a mill. The originator of the scheme was successful in calling public attention to the want, and he received large promises of support. A meeting was held, shares were in request, and it was said that the requisite capital would be forthcoming. Vain hope! Promises were taken instead of cash, and the mill which had been already erected infancy, was deserted by the public and the company tilted at the sails in the moonshine, after they had blown off the steam and cooled their boilers. The speculator who will start a mill, it should be a steam one, in Warwick, will reap a handsome fortune, as there are fifty-five miles between Warwick and Toowoomba, the place where a spirited proprietor has a mill already at work.

Warwick, in a few years, if wise legislation and public spirit go hand in hand, will become a lovely place. Already its future greatness, as Disraeli would say, ‘looms in the distance.’ A few go-a-head, intelligent, residents, added to the already existing intelligence of the district, would be a great accession. They appear in Warwick to want a few men of high moral principle who know the world, men with small means they may be, but withal those who would set their face against revilings of classes on the one hand, and against cliques and jealousies on the other, and men who, in the firm conviction of the right, knowing the truth, dare maintain it. A few such residents added to the stock already breathing pure air and bracing their nerves at a great elevation above the sea, would soon alter the appearance of the place, and tone the political feeling, so that fighting for principles would take the place of petty jealousy. Having said thus much about Warwick I will, for this time, vamose.

The route described by the author of the ‘A Trip to the Diggings’ reports,
Moreton Bay Courier, 1859. (C. Dawson)
The complete 'Trip to the Gold Diggings' series: 
  1. A Trip to the Gold Diggings #1: Gold Fever at Brisbane
  2. A Trip to the Gold Diggings #2: The Fields From Timbarra to Tooloom
  3. A Trip to the Gold Diggings #3: Ipswich to Fassifern
  4. A Trip to the Gold Diggings #4: Fassifern to Koorelah Range
  5. A Trip to the Gold Diggings #5: Tooloom 
  6. A Trip to the Gold Diggings #6: Scenes From Tooloom
  7. A Trip to the Gold Diggings #7: Tooloom to Flagstone Creek
  8. A Trip to the Gold Diggings #8: Flagstone Creek to the Condamine
  9. A Trip to the Gold Diggings #9: Warwick
  10. A Trip to the Gold Diggings #10: Warwick to Drayton 

A Trip to the Gold Diggings #8: Flagstone Creek to the Condamine

A Trip to the Gold Diggings #8: Flagstone Creek to the CondamineIn 1859 a wave of gold fever hit the newly independent colony of Queensland, and hundreds of men headed southwest to Tooloom, approximately 150 kilometres over the border into New South Wales. This journey of around four or five days on horseback was also taken by J. Robinson, a correspondent of the 'Moreton Bay Courier' in November 1859, and he wrote a detailed account of his travels both there and back (see map below). The result is a fascinating insight into life on the road during the earliest days of colonial Queensland, as well as the rough-and-ready atmosphere of the goldfields. The writings are reproduced in this 'A Trip to the Gold Diggings' series.

Warning: This article contains language that would be considered extremely racially offensive today, but is retained here for historical context.

Moreton Bay Courier, 20 December 1859

Flagstone Creek

I calculated this point of the journey to be about eighteen or twenty miles from Tooloom. This was the point at which Peter was to leave us and return again to his Mary. The poor fellow must have had terrible hard work to have made his camp before sun-down, as it was nearly three o’clock in the afternoon when he left us. The difficulty of the way at the points where I have mentioned may be judged by the fact that we had been nearly eight hours on the way without any rest, the pace of the blackfellow being, on an average, three and a-half miles an hour. I forgive that rascal Peter for the ability that he displayed in appropriating my knife, which he borrowed to cut a stick and did not remember to return. Let the knife and the handy guide go back to Mary. If any brother of the tribe played falsely while Peter was earning white money, the knife may help to avenge Peter‘s wrongs, and make him famous amongst the gunyahs of Queensland as a desperate avenger of violated honor. If Sterne moralized on a dead ass, and ill-used his wife, as the old literary chronicles tell, surely I have a right to moralize on Peter and his Mary. And thus in my mind, after the approved silence outwardly of the Quaker, but from the inward expression of the soul, bade I Peter farewell.

‘Return oh Peter, child of these wilds, again to thy dwelling on the hill side of Tooloom. There are yet four hours ere the orb of day sinks behind the western horizon. Go Peter - seek thy many, wander still these hills of thy fathers, and have no connection with the white man, for thy skin remits a perfume far less fragrant than roses, and thy taste for human flesh savours too much of the tiger of the jungle. Go Peter – say not the white man is unkind. Think, Peter, think on the glory of the race of thy fathers, and like Merwin of old, hang thy spear and waddie in the sunshine, for great deeds belong to thy race.’ Exalted in fancy, when the imagination had gone thus far, by the cry of ‘bosh.’ Fancy said, ‘you will be charged with imitating Macpherson in his Ossian.’ ‘Never mind,’ I replied, ‘he pretended that he found Ossian in old manuscript. I am therefore only the imitation of a deceiver, but there is no one to say that Ossian is not original; It is so original that an old newspaper hack should write books like it at so much per mile, and get rich into the bargain.

But here my readers may say, why not talk about Flagstone Creek? Presto! Peter is gone. The creek, then, is bottomed with huge rocks, and in some parts the water has worn circular in which the water remains when the other parts of the creek are dry. The passage of the creek presents a singular appearance - a rocky roadway; the name was aptly given, and he who first bestowed its natural cognoma was a better judge of proper names than many of the Yankees. In the rocky bottom of the creek the action of the water had worn deep round holes, and these in the dryest seasons contain water. The taste of the water thus retained and kept stagnant under the rays of the sun, I cannot describe as pleasant. The day that I passed the creek was not a very warm one, and yet the water in these natural rocky wells was quite warm. I should not wish a finer week’s holiday than tracing and examining Flagstone Creek, since at all the points that I looked upon it, there were indications of the great changes which have taken place by the action of the water and from other causes - sufficient to repay any inquirer who did not measure the knowledge obtained by the gold it might bring. With the settlers for miles round Flagstone Creek is well known, and is spoken of as more than a gully, which information, as Australian fashion goes, will satisfy your readers that I have not spent too much time at the creek, where I was bereft of the services of Peter the black.

Acacia Creek

A few miles from Flagstone Creek is Acacia Creek. For the first three or four miles on the way from one point to the other the country is not very inviting; but no sooner are the hills climbed and something like the level obtained than the traveller is sensible of a change of temperature and soil. Two or three miles of level travelling from where the hills terminate brings the passer to Acacia Creek, near to which is the residence of a Mr. McLean, a relative of he who is known as ‘Jack McLean, of Westbrook.’ As it was quite time that both horse and man rested - and as I did not really wish to go farther that night, I hugged myself with thought that the day’s journey was done, even though I had not up to that time, caught sight of the Condamine. Suffice it to say that I did not remain at Acacia Creek, only long enough to rest myself and horse. I partook of the hospitality that was offered, but the invitation was given in a manner which I interpreted as ‘we shall be much obliged if you don’t.’ I would, at any time, prefer a pot of tea and a camp at the foot of a gum tree, than where travellers are only tolerated because it would be inhumanity to turn them adrift. I am sorry there is a growing opinion that hospitality at the stations is dying out; and that where it is accorded it is with that coldness which makes a sensitive mind wish there was ‘a house of accommodation,’ where charge would be made at every stage. The great change which is likely shortly to take place politically, and the chances are that legislation may decide on the distribution of this magnificent territory, should teach all graziers a little lesson, which I may portray to them parabolically.

Parabolic Teaching for Squatters

Before the commencement of the Russian war, when political feeling ran high, it was believed in political circles that the power would not long be confided alone to the aristocratic circles. Up from the lower and middle classes men had soared into public life and there was a growing feeling against the ‘Upper ten thousand’ as a class. When the tide of war rolled fiercely – when the lists of death came month after month from Scutari, Varna, Alma, Inkermann, and from the trenches before that doomed city which held out so long and obstinately, the names of the sons of the aristocracy, ah, and even of the holders of titles themselves, came amongst the mournful lists. Then the people saw that England’s aristocracy (which is the finest in the world) could fight as well as do the amiable, and once more they helped on the car adorned with flowers; and once more they dozed into apathy and were satisfied that they might change for the worse. My meaning is so plain that the graziers need not quarrel if I leave them to find the moral; and each may then adapt it to himself.

The Condamine

Oh for a pen that would write itself without the trouble of guiding; and oh for a brain more worthy than mine to do justice to the country upon which I am entering. ‘The Condamine, the Condamine,’ shouts my companion with all the ardour of a German coming in sight of his beloved Rhine. And there it is - a silver streak stretching away in the distance, while the country on all sides is beautifully verdant, and the cattle that roam the plains delight themselves in fatness. Since I have resided in the colony this was the first day that I could realize the idea that I was in a country like England. The roads were finer than I had ever previously seen on this side of the old ocean. Talk of Macadamised roads! In many places these mean, rough stones sticking up in dirty ways. Here, in sight and near the Condamine, the roads were as level as a bowling green, and not even her gracious Majesty, in the Home Park, has finer roads to drive on than those which natural soil has favored on the road from Acacia Creek to Warwick: but I halt at ‘ The Elbow,’ - and having mentioned the river I set out in quest of, I should not do justice if I skipped the description of as fine a sixteen miles of country as it was ever my fortune to look upon.

Palmerin Street, Warwick, ca. 1868. (Qld State Library)

The Elbow

Before I further relate the story of my travels I would wish to make mention of the sympathy which is shown on behalf of the repeal of the duty on gold. All the diggers and those in the immediate neighbourhood of the diggings, argue that the diggers are amongst the largest consumers and should not, therefore, pay duty on that article which they obtain from the earth through so much toil. They had prepared a memorial in favour of the abolition of the duty when I was at Tooloom, and the document was in course of signature. Thus much by way of a reminder where I had come from. My story legally and truthfully picks me up at ‘The Elbow,’ at which place I received the greatest hospitality from a gentleman who holds a responsible situation on the station to which that beautiful part of Queensland belongs.

From 'The Elbow’ to Warwick is sixteen miles - a splendid road, the description I gave previously I intend to answer for here. Now the traveller goes through a splendidly flat country, while on his right meanders the Condamine. After rising a very slight elevation there is little for half a dozen miles to admire save the beauty of the way and the thinness of the timber. All at once breakage is made on to a large plain, covering some square miles, and here the land is rich, and ready for the plough as soon as there shall be a liberal land scheme, and speculation shall provide what is needful for the prosperity of small farmers. Here I began to experience the truth of what I had formerly heard and feel by actual observation that Warwick and its adjacent plains should be the granary of the colony. What more can I say than that plain after plain was crossed until we began to run down the fence of Canning Downs paddock. Talk of the advantages of an early residence in a new country? In no case was it more perceptible than by looking on the splendid paddock I have mentioned. It was the prince of paddocks; and when I heard of pre-emptive rights and all such stuff I fancied those who allowed the appropriation of such princely places on such easy terms were not wise in their generation for those that may come after. I make no crossroads to call special attention to any English feelings I may have experienced. To sermonise for a month on the extent of stations, and the great advantages possessed by the lessees would not alter the facts or make the country less beautiful. It did appear, however, to my simple mind rather against the grain to see a large place like the paddock, so close to the town of Warwick locked completely up from the people, more especially as the Condamine, I was given to understand, runs through the well selected and beautifully-adapted spot for any purpose. In writing thus, I may state that I have no animosity against the squatters as men. They have only taken advantage of a fortunate chain of circumstances and done what every sane man would have done similarly situated - made the best of it.

The Day’s Journey Done

If every fifty miles travelled afforded as much food for reflection as those have which I have passed over since I left Tooloom, every traveller would be ‘a reflector’ on a large scale, and would weary if he knew not how to time his paragraphs and round his sentences. All day long had I inquired about Warwick, and the scenes presented had more than far answered the description or my expectation. In the shades of night I pass a number of homesteads and am at last in Warwick. The air feels English like; but here I may remark, that my testimony should be carefully received, as the ride across the open plains, and the healthy appearance of the cattle, the luxuriance of the grass, and the cool breeze had, perhaps, excited me to an undue appreciation of that part of Queensland in which I found myself. I take my leave of the day’s riding and day’s working with an earnest hope for the future of the district of Warwick; and though not gifted with the spirit of prophesy, it requires not the wisdom of a seer to foretell a great increase in population and wealth to this part of Queensland as soon as its capabilities, soil, and climate shall be understood.

A Trip to the Gold Diggings #7: Tooloom to Flagstone Creek

In 1859 a wave of gold fever hit the newly independent colony of Queensland, and hundreds of men headed southwest to Tooloom, approximately 150 kilometres over the border into New South Wales. This journey of around four or five days on horseback was also taken by J. Robinson, a correspondent of the 'Moreton Bay Courier' in November 1859, and he wrote a detailed account of his travels both there and back (see map below). The result is a fascinating insight into life on the road during the earliest days of colonial Queensland, as well as the rough-and-ready atmosphere of the goldfields. The writings are reproduced in this 'A Trip to the Gold Diggings' series.

Warning: This article contains language that would be considered extremely racially offensive today, but is retained here for historical context.

Moreton Bay Courier, 17 December 1859:

Report of a Quartz Reef

Along the line of road, from Ipswich to Tooloom, I had heard reports that a quartz reef had been discovered, and the general impression appeared to be that it only needed some such discovery to make ‘our diggings’ as they are commonly, though not legally, called. A little inquiry on the fields at Tooloom satisfied me that the report was a mere canard, which some systematic hoaxer had devised to draw the rush on the Warwick route, near to which place it was said the reef existed. I had heard of the reported discovery when only a few miles from Balbi’s; so you see that news, good or bad, false or true, can find wings to travel with even amongst mountains and gum trees. It was, I believe, first reported by some clever rascal who understood word weaving and who was an adept at constructiveness in sentences so that the truth should appear only from probability, and if falsity should be proved the inventor could turn upon the rendering of his sentence and so escape the character of falsehood. The story had cost some long and weary walks to find what they could not and to see what they could not, all returning with looks as sour and dark as those ominous words on a returned cheque ‘no effects.’

Leaving Tooloom

I had calculated upon leaving to return to Koorelah before I could really make a fair start for Warwick. Fortunately I was able to find a mate who also wished to go to Warwick and we debated the prudence of obtaining the service of a black as guide, and starting for Acacia Creek by the nearest route. When I and my mate had made inquiries amongst the darkies there answered a smart looking-fellow who said his name was Peter, and he undertook to convey us so near to the place I have mentioned that there would be no difficulty after his leaving in finding the way. At an early hour in the morning our party, myself, the gentleman who was leaving the diggings, and Peter, started away, bidding the bark huts, calico tents, and shanties of all descriptions, not forgetting the coat of arms suspended outside all places of abode, the frying pans, an affectionate farewell. The site of Tooloom is well chosen for an inland town; but if the diggings should go ahead and prosper, as I hope and trust they will, the site for a town, beautifully situated and well supplied with water, is that spot between the sliprail of Tooloom cattle station fence and the foot of ‘The Falls.’

Tooloom National Park (NSW National Parks Service)

The Near Cut

After clambering the hill I have sketched previously and made all ready for a start we proceeded, headed by Peter, who wore a Turkish red ferz cap on his black and shining hair, and shouldered his tomahawk as if he was on a marauding excursion after some of the young ladies of a neighbouring man. But Peter was a married man - wedded according to the bush fashion; and, therefore, my similie does not hold. And, unlike most married men, Peter was in care about his wife, one of the express stipulations of the contract being that we should allow him to return that night, as he was fearful that in his absence some brother chum would take the liberty of eloping with his Mary. We tried to calm Peter down on this subject, but he would not be comforted, and by the oft repeated ‘baal’ with which he greeted our suggestions on the goodness of his people and our own, it was evident Mr. Peter was a thorough recogniser of the universal depravity doctrine.

For about three or four miles of the way, the way was not difficult, and though there was no track or mark to travel by that we could see, still the black held headway and we followed. After the first four miles the aspect of the country changed. We began to ascend and descend hills, and found it prudent at times to dismount that the horses might with greater safety to the men cross the gullies. Every now and then rounding some corner of a heavily timbered hill, the black’s dog, a long, lean, and ill-favoured brute, but which Peter had honored with the name of ‘Beauty,’ would startle the kangaroos, give tongue, chase for a time and return like Admiral Napier from the Baltic, having made only a slight commotion. A few miles of this kind of way brought us at last to a splendid open flat, and I began congratulating myself that the difficulties were past.

Killing a Black Snake

When just entering the flat a black snake of moderate size was soon making the best of his way to escape. The gliding reptile caught Peters eye - the tomahawk was raised and thrown with a precision and swiftness attainable by long practice. An old root followed the tomahawk quickly - the snake was disabled, eventually made a head shorter, and left as a mark of vengeance against the unwelcome crawlers.

Splendour in Solitude

The flat we had now come to spread away for miles, there was scarcely a tree upon it, and my thoughts were all for the future when a nation shall have grown and stalwart yeomen and patriarchial graziers gladden the glades with their presence, and the merry cheer from the voices of children at play prove that these now forsaken spots have ‘a local habitation and a name in the minds of a rising community.’

Climbing the Mountains

Our toil soon began. Peter led us by a way peculiarly his own. Up the sides of mountains difficult to climb did we pass, and when we had reached the elevations, on looking round there was nothing but mountains on all sides to be seen. Far away in the distance as the eye could reach were mountains, and their brown and shaggy sides, covered with timber, proclaimed the wildness of the land, and the little that the whites had already done to mark their stay. Now we descend until we reach a perfect hollow in which water is found. The horses with difficulty reach the agua puro; having found their way into the curiously-shaped place, they have to leap to gain the opposite bank. Here, in this spot, where grass had grown as high as our breasts, and where no one but a blackfellow would think of going, had a prospecting party tried a dishful. We could see the marks of the ‘fossickers;’ and then I knew that there was something more than mere rumour in the statement that parties were trying every likely place. When we passed from this gully we had a teaser. For about fifty yards I struggled bravely and led my horse; but I could not hold out, as Paddy would say, ‘for every step I took forward I took two backward,’ until I was obliged to hold to the twigs and shout for assistance. The black having taken my horse, I did manage with great difficulty to scramble up - and when I reached, if the view had pleased me from the other points, from this one it was grand and impressive. The length up the mountain must have been fully three-quarters of a mile, and when I reached the summit I was fairly tired, and am not ashamed to own it, more especially as I think there is far too much bounce practised in the talk about colonial travelling. I have before alluded to the ‘nothing’ kind of reckoning, and need not here further explain myself. It is something to me, and why should I care, though all the people had seen something grander, and been worse beset with difficulties in travelling, if I had never before encountered the like, I should tell my story my own way, and leave the issue.

Crossing a Creek

Mile after mile, all guess-work, had been done, when we came at last to a creek that seemed for a time to bid fair to stay our journey. Not that there was any water, but the rocks rose in such queer and fantastical shapes - and there was no beaten way, that I knew not how we were going to manage. The horses slipped and rushed again - then startled, and at last, with a leap, they gained a point of rock which enabled them to have firm foot-hold and so relieved what care I had as to the finish of the dangers. When we had crossed this place it seemed as if we had come upon a new country. Soon we caught sight of a marked tree which had been done by Mr. Fleming‘s party, and we were enabled here and there to trace the white man’s chop until passing the lambing-down station – the farthest out-station from and belonging to Kooreelah. Soon we came to Flagstone Creek.

A Trip to the Gold Diggings #6: Scenes From Tooloom

In 1859 a wave of gold fever hit the newly independent colony of Queensland, and hundreds of men headed southwest to Tooloom, approximately 150 kilometres over the border into New South Wales. This journey of around four or five days on horseback was also taken by J. Robinson, a correspondent of the 'Moreton Bay Courier' in November 1859, and he wrote a detailed account of his travels both there and back (see map below). The result is a fascinating insight into life on the road during the earliest days of colonial Queensland, as well as the rough-and-ready atmosphere of the goldfields. The writings are reproduced in this 'A Trip to the Gold Diggings' series.

Warning: This article contains language that would be considered extremely racially offensive today, but is retained here for historical context.

Moreton Bay Courier, 13 December 1859


SAFELY down from the height, having rested as previously stated at the half-way-house, the owners of which ought to insure all lodgers at so much per head from the dangers of high winds, Saturday night nobblers, and also from all riotous and disorderly conduct on the part of all inmates, for fear of a roll below, I sent myself on an old stump and look about to see what kind of faces the diggers wear; and having made up my mind as to what party I shall first accost, I make my way to the point and draw myself together to be ready to understand what I may be told. At the same time I give imagination a tug, so that I may not fall into the category of the gullibles...

Cousin Jackies

I love a Cornishman, though not one myself; he generally has such deep scheming under his smiling ‘marning;’ and though he may make you welcome to his ‘apple pastie and cream,’ he has an eye for business. And what has made me open this part in Cornish style, may be inferred from the fact that in the claim I next visited there were three Çousin Jackies busily at work. I knew the twang of the dialect in a moment, and was ‘all there’ to find out what I could; so I sat myself down, and opened the conversation according to the best method of which I was the master. For the benefit of the uninitiated, I may say that if you can get a Cornishman to talk about Tregollis, and the ‘Bear Hunt of St. Ann’s,’ and also about ‘shooting the cherrybeam,’ you will at once gain an entrance to his affections, and may succeed in acquiring his confidence. This short sketch may manage to show how soon I was on good terms with Cousin Jackies, and how I learned the story of

The Wonderful Nugget

I mean, of course, that very identical nugget found by a digger, which weighed over eighty ozs., and which was delivered over to some person in connection with the Ipswich Escort for safety, and in relation to which there was a legal injunction to restrain the digger and finder from taking possession of, until he had been able to justify his alleged ownership in the eyes of the law. My newly found friends pointed out the spot where this large nugget was found, and told me something in relation to it which, if I tell as nearly as possible as I heard it, I may escape the libel court. ‘Ah’ said one, ‘that was a d____ shame. That fellow who laid claim to a share of the nugget had no more to do with it than a stranger. He had sold out of the claim the day before, and the finder went early to give the claim a morning trial and found the great nugget.’ I listened with pleasure. ‘Lord bless ye,’ said one, ‘I never seed a feller in such a way in my life; when he did find it he didn’t know what to do with heself; he turned white and was regularly comed over.’

‘It was his’ said another; ‘and if he’d done as he should he would have kept as dark as a chimney sweep.’ If the party in this claim were jurymen to try the case it would not be difficult to venture a bet of a dozen of champagne on the finale of the trial.'

Moreton Bay Courier, 15 December 1859:

'Nature of the Ground

Up to the present time I have been very silent on the geological character of Tooloom. I don’t profess to know much on this point, and should be sorry to set myself up as a judge in the matter. If Lyell, Sedgwick, or Buckland, had been to Tooloom and published books on the geological formations of the place, I might appropriate a few quotations. Nevertheless, in all humility, I append my own geological opinions.

The country in the neighbourhood of Tooloom is evidently volcanic, traces of the convulsions of nature being more distinable at the points near to the creek than elsewhere. The various layers are easily discernible in ascending or descending the point of the steep hill near Joe’s Gully; but as far as I could judge from actual observation, there seems to be no rule for the discovery of gold from any particular layer. One party finds the precious metal in gravel - another finds it in soil as rich as garden mould - and another is fortunate in clayey looking soil. The last named appears to show the colour of the metal sought better than any other; the gold obtainable from this kind of layer being smaller than that washed from the gravel. The top layer of the land near to the favourite resort of the diggers is very strong, the edges of the projecting stones being in many places sharp - in others, rising in boulders. One fact I state for the consideration of those more versed in peculiarities connected with soil and climate than I am. The grass growing in the naturally formed paddock I have previously mentioned, is remarkably nutritious for horses, and it is rarely that grass appears to thrive so well for feeding purposes as the tufts which sprout from the rocky and stony intersectices of this wild and broken country.

The appearance of the bed of Joe’s Gully has been entirely altered by the diggers. The bed of the gully is not very wide, but stupendous banks protect it on each side near to the bed of the creek, where the busiest operations were being carried on; and if the place has not been formed by volcanic eruptions, and is only one of the rough and stupendous water-courses of this great country, there is food for supposition that ages have rolled by in accomplishing the appearance presented in 1859 to the visitors...

General Character of Tub Diggings

It is time I gave the diggings a character. I must here endeavour to be very particular. I talked with the storekeepers, diggers, and workers who live by other means than searching for gold. I had an opportunity of talking with many returns on the way up; many more than I have mentioned, and I have endeavoured to form an independent judgment. That Tooloom is a gold country no man who has visited it will deny. The gold brought down by the escort is proof that there is gold. The objection urged by many that the gold which is brought by the Ipswich escort is obtained mostly from the Table Land will not hold good. The Grafton people will be sure, on that side of the country, to keep a sharp look-out ; and I may state that there is a trifle of jealousy relative to the gold coming down to Ipswich which ought not to exist; and the sooner it is allayed the better will it be for all concerned. The Table Land is thirty miles from Tooloom, and it is not likely that much of the gold from the Grafton side passes by way of Ipswich. I should be inclined to believe from what I saw that if the matter were stated vice versa, - that some of the Tooloom gold went by way of Grafton, the truth would be nearer told.

Estimation and Calculation

I should estimate the number of persons at Tooloom, ‘Eight-mile Rush’ and ‘Twenty-mile Rush‘ at about eight hundred. I allow three hundred as the population of women, children and those engaged in stores, public houses, trades, et cetera. This gives a bona fide digging population of five hundred.

The Ipswich Escort brought down last trip nearly six hundred ounces - which gives more than an ounce per man for about three weeks. Now when it is considered that many on the fields scarcely obtain their rations, and others not even enough gold to purchase supplies, while others have good claims, it is not difficult to find a solution that Tooloom diggings, like all others, are a lottery. I believe there are plenty of men doing well; but the general prosperity would, at the time when I visited, have been much heightened by a better supply of water. In this particular there was a general scarcity. Joe’s Gulley was rendered almost useless as a gold producing spot. The two rushes were as badly off as Joe’s Gulley. The country has every appearance of proving gold producing in large quantities. At present circumstances have not been favourable to the full development of its capabilities. I have faith that something good will turn up in that quarter yet; but I should be sorry to say anything which would induce men who have employment, to leave a certainty for, what must be, an uncertainty, until water and time shall make us wiser respecting Tooloom. The impetus which has been given to the Tooloom fields by our friends in Ipswich has certainly done good. Under present circumstances the difficulty is to find now claims; and this I found to be the cause for so many returning. Above all things, a digger who goes to Tooloom should be provided with some ‘tin,’ so that he may hold out. I consider I have given the Tooloom goldfields a good character. They are not, at present, the places for very poor men. Those who have means to work on, strong faith, and dogged determination will, in the end, succeed, unless the face of nature lies, and the experience of the past gold indices are in this instance a blank.

I might run on to an undue length by repeating the gist of the inquiries I made, and the answers thereto. I might tell of claims unworked, and claims registered waiting for water; but, I could not add to the general information contained in my short summary, which may be told in a few words. Tooloom is a goldfield only wanting time and favorable circumstances to develop its capabilities.

I had many conversations on Saturday night with the diggers, and what I gleaned then helped me to summarize as above. If the reader will picture his own feeling when, the week’s toil is done and there is a chance for an hour’s enjoyment and patient forgetfulness, he can spare my pen the trouble of a description. Tooloom deserves a good character...

A Fight with the Knives

Those black, ugly, devils are making faces near the doorway of the hotel, and they laugh with a hideousity that makes a sensitive nature wish a score of miles was between their carcases and the fancied abode of the white lords’ security. Some of the backs of these dark gentry are cut with ghastly wounds. A few nights previously they had indulged in an aboriginal fashionable duel, and the sinners who presented themselves for the orgies of Saturday night were of those who had shown their prowess for a lady love by deeds of bloody war. Some of these black scoundrels had been half civilized on stations, and the little English they had learned had not made first class specimens to be produced at a missionary meeting. I did hear, on the Saturday night, that the aboriginals, when they fight with knives, have certain rules and regulations, a departure from which subjects the defaulter to a punishment peculiarly in accordance with the savage race to which they belong. And here I must tell a story. Two of the blacks had gone to the fight - one had departed from the honorable mode of striking, in so far that he had dragged his knife too lowly on his enemy’s body. For the benefit of those who know not the law which governs them in this particular, I may say that where the abdomen joins the upper portion of the body is considered the rubicon which the knife must not cross. When they fight with knives they do not stab deeply, but having forced the blade into the flesh the process is that of dragging; and the longer the wound the more successful is considered the inflictor.

Two blacks had fought and one had drawn his knife across the other’s abdomen, the consequence being that the intestines protruded and for three or four hours the black was in a state indescribable by your humble servant... The black who was thus served in his corporate body found at last a white man who took pity upon his unfortunate condition; and he lighted, by a tallow dip at the camp, and armed with a rusty needle and a bit of thread, commenced the job of sewing the blackfellow up as if he had been a dead marine. On the blackfellow’s wrist there was a wound, which was said to have been enough to kill a white fellow; but of this no notice was taken. The breach bodily was of more consequence than gash armitistically. The blackfellow lived, and appeared to suffer as little inconvenience from the mending he had received from an inexperienced body darner... I will not so far forget myself to hold the tinkerer of the black so publicly forth that he may become known. His act was one of pure charity - he took no fees - nor did he ask who was to pay him before he started to the camp on his mission of needle and thread mercy. I vouch for the accuracy of the tale as told by the performer himself, whose good deed shall now live in memory when his bad fortune as a digger at Tooloom shall have perished from memory.

Gold and the Blacks

The aboriginals seem perfectly to understand where to find the metal which makes wise men fools and gives an antipodean value to that grand army to which a wag once said he had no ambition to belong. The aboriginals, knowing the value of the metal for the purchase of grog and ‘bacca,’ nevertheless will not take the trouble to dig. For a trifle - for a glass of grog, they will do menial offices for the whites, wander a score of miles away, into the mountains with a party of diggers - to spots where the print of whitefellow’s foot has never previously been, and there point out spots favourable for prospecting. If the aboriginals were not so lazy, or if they had a tithe of the cupidity of the whites, they could soon become rich. Wise legislation might do something for them if contamination had not already struck its death roots into the race. Why need I moralise - it appears that they must perish before the advance of white civilisation, and I should like to find the man prepared with a specific definite nostrum to show that there would be any real service rendered to the world by the incorporation of the aboriginals of North Australia with any other existing race. Tastes differ, or else white women would not mate with John Chinamen as we see they do; but, then, woman is a bundle of incongruities, and cannot be reckoned by the rule of three and vulgar fractions. I hold that the thesis for incorporation, whereby and wherefrom a better race than the jibbering savage with animal instincts might rise, is not practicable so far as the Malay, Japanese, or Chinese are concerned. Nature, elevated, abhors descending. The aspirations are upward in nationality, and onward in civilisation, until the world shall be linked by rapid means of transit and great thoughts, aided by science, demonstrating that man was made for other purposes than toil and money-getting.

There were three or four aboriginals on the ground on the Saturday night in question who were above the average in point of intelligence; but, even those seemed to be short of a shingle in making the best of their knowledge as to the likely spots where gold was to be obtained. They would drink grog, beg for sixpences, journey all day long for a trifle, but the value of the metal for which the whites searched so eagerly they knew not. They had never known the possession of yellow money; prechance if they were taught the value of gold to ‘buy ‘em bacca and grog,’ they might touch the first step of civilisation. Wherever I have seen the aboriginals, so far as property is concerned, they are communists, and despise those petty distinctions which first led to the settlement of this colony...

Themes of Discussion

If a traveller spends a night at a station he will find that the fashionable subject of conversation, especially if a neighbour is visiting who is pecuniarily interested, is cattle, sheep, horses, wool, horns, hides, and tallow. Since Separation, local politics come in at the station boards as ‘Worcestershire Sauce;’ and the mixture is at times as strange as Paddy O’Rourke’s dream. Those matters which are nearest the breast pocket I suppose men will talk about, and ladies also. At Tooloom they talked of sinkings, washings, beds of gravel, boulders, beds of pipeclay, and the general opinion seemed that deep sinking would in a few weeks be the order of the diggings at Tooloom. When the news shall reach us that ‘the windows of heaven’ have been kept open for a few days in that locality, there will be such an improvement that we shall be disposed to wonder why we believed not sooner.

Modes for Inducing Sleep

The diggers crowd the bagatelle board, the balls roll with measured sound, and every now and then there is a gusto of exclamations, perfectly original in their construction and novel fin their sounds. I want to sleep and still the whir keeps on; at last I catch the indication of drowsiness, but there is a spell in the original manner of talk... There are many ways to woo Morpheus. Mesmerize yourself by imagining you are converted into a chimney and the smoke is coming from your mouth as from a funnel. Look straight at some object And if all fails make a planetary system by tightly closing the eyes and seeing sun, moon, and stars of all colours and sizes. If all these means fail don’t get into a passion - if you do you may bid farewell to sleep that night. Smoke a bit, read a page or two, think on those matters only which are pleasant, and you may get off even while a score of fellows are interesting themselves in making a noise that would wake all the blessed babies in creation. I say not how I managed, or if I found it expedient to put on a nightcap. I am off, good night. To-morrow,
Give me my horse and a bottle of wine,
And you shall all hear of the Condamine.'